March 14, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
White House appoints new nat’l AIDS director

President Obama has appointed a new national AIDS director who has a history of work preventing the spread of HIV infection.

In a statement Wednesday, the White House announced Obama has selected Grant Colfax as head of the Office of National AIDS Policy, which coordinates efforts to reduce the number of HIV infections across the country.

“Grant Colfax will lead the my Administration’s continued progress in providing care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS,” Obama said in a statement. “Grant’s expertise will be key as we continue to face serious challenges and take bold steps to meet them. I look forward to his leadership in the months and years to come.”

In his new role at ONAP, which is a component of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Colfax will take on a role leading prevention efforts through education initiatives and helping to coordinate treatment of Americans living with HIV/AIDS. ONAP also coordinates with the National Security Council and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator for worldwide HIV efforts, such as the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, initiative.

Colfax comes into the role after having most recently served as director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s HIV prevention section. According to a statement from the White House, Colfax was also an National Institutes of Health and Centers of Disease Control supported scientist who studied HIV testing strategies, clinical trials of medications to treat substance dependence and biomedical HIV prevention interventions.

Praise for the selection of Colfax as head of ONAP came from both HIV/AIDS groups and offices on Capitol Hill.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the selection of Colfax “brings enormous pride to many San Franciscans.”

“As Director of the HIV Prevention Section in the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Grant has been essential in ensuring a decline in new HIV infections,” Pelosi said. “With experience as a health care practitioner, researcher, and public policy thinker, Grant is uniquely suited to lead the lifesaving efforts of the Office of National AIDS Policy. He has pioneered groundbreaking, evidence-based prevention strategies, such as monitoring and mapping ‘community viral load’ for decreasing new HIV infections.”

Judith Aberg, chair of the HIV Medicine Association, said Colfax is an “excellent choice” for the role and his previous work has made San Francisco a model for fighting HIV/AIDS across the country.

“Dr. Colfax brings invaluable experience and expertise to this important position,” Aberg said. “San Francisco’s HIV prevention and treatment efforts, including efforts to link people who are infected with the care and treatment they need, have become models for communities across the country in the fight against AIDS.”

HIVMA is a professional organization for more than 4,800 physicians, scientists, and other health care experts dedicated to combatting HIV/AIDS.

Colfax comes into the position after Jeff Crowley, the previous head of ONAP, stepped down from the role at the end of last year. The former ONAP said the time was right for him to leave the role after he spent a year-and-a-half on implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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